I got up at 4:00am on Friday, to feed my apparently starving to death almost-seven-week old daughter. She wasn’t starving. She just screams like she is.
I turned on the tv for company, as I’m apt to do. And there it was flashing in front of me, the news so fresh and coming in so fast that every couple of minutes a few details changed as they tried to keep up with the influx of information.
Another mass shooting. This one, the largest in the history of the United States. At a movie theatre.
I don’t think I had any original thoughts in that moment. It’s that lack of originality in times of crises, the common grief, outrage, lack of understanding and sorrow that unites us as a species.
I wondered, like a million others, why he felt the need to hurt people he’d never met. I felt the rising anger that simmers below my surface over the lack of gun control in the United States – access to weapons of mass destruction in the hands of whomever feels the whimsy safely cloaked behind the words “freedom” and “right”.
My heart leapt out of my body towards the families of everyone in that theatre at that moment – wondering where their loved ones were, and if they were okay.
Then someone said the words. A baby has been shot. And I started to cry.
Babies have been hurt in the past. I heard about it. It saddened every cell in my body, and made the world grey for a time. But now I have a baby, and everything is different.
Now my baby had been shot. I felt every emotion that baby’s mother felt. I felt her shock. I felt her fear. And I felt her remorse. I had no idea who the baby was, and whether or not she was okay. But in my head, I cried the words to my own baby girl, and the silent father. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I brought you here. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you. I should have. It’s all my fault. Please be okay. God, I’ll do anything as long as she’s okay. Please let her be okay. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
I found out the next day that the baby – only a few months old – was treated and released from the hospital, on her way to a full recovery with no memory of what happened to her. Another child – a beautiful, innocent, six-year-old girl – had a different fate that night. And I understood in a razor-sharp moment of clarity that in times like these, every child will be my child. And I’ll have the voice of every mother in my head, begging for a chance to go back and do something different so her child would be safe. And again, I heard my own mother’s words in my head. Words she said to me countless times when I was growing up. When you have a child, you’ll know. Now, I know.